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Understanding Peer Effects in Financial Decisions: Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Leonardo Bursztyn
  • Florian Ederer
  • Bruno Ferman
  • Noam Yuchtman

Using a high-stakes field experiment conducted with a financial brokerage, we implement a novel design to separately identify two channels of social influence in financial decisions, both widely studied theoretically. When someone purchases an asset, his peers may also want to purchase it, both because they learn from his choice ("social learning") and because his possession of the asset directly affects others' utility of owning the same asset ("social utility"). We find that both channels have statistically and economically significant effects on investment decisions. These results can help shed light on the mechanisms underlying herding behavior in financial markets.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18241.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18241
Note: AP CF LS
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  1. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects With Random Assignment: Results For Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704, May.
  3. Giuseppe Moscarin & Marco Ottaviani & Lones Smith, . "Social Learning in a Changing World," ELSE working papers 010, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  4. Gordon B. Dahl & Katrine V. Løken & Magne Mogstad, 2012. "Peer Effects in Program Participation," NBER Working Papers 18198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gali, J., 1992. "Keeping Up with the Joneses: Consumption Externalities, Portfolio Choice and Asset Prices," Papers 92-22, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  6. Alan T. Sorensen, 2006. "Social learning and health plan choice," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 929-945, December.
  7. Geng Li, 2014. "Information Sharing and Stock Market Participation: Evidence from Extended Families," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 151-160, March.
  8. Avery, Christopher & Zemsky, Peter, 1998. "Multidimensional Uncertainty and Herd Behavior in Financial Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 724-48, September.
  9. Scott E. Carrell & Bruce I. Sacerdote & James E. West, 2011. "From Natural Variation to Optimal Policy? The Lucas Critique Meets Peer Effects," NBER Working Papers 16865, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Card, David & Mas, Alexandre & Moretti, Enrico & Saez, Emmanuel, 2010. "Inequality at Work: The Effect of Peer Salaries on Job Satisfaction," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt48z7z9dn, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  11. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
  12. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the United States," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 509-525, October.
  13. Bogaçhan Çelen & Shachar Kariv, 2004. "Distinguishing Informational Cascades from Herd Behavior in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 484-498, June.
  14. Gustavo J. Bobonis & Frederico Finan, 2009. "Neighborhood Peer Effects in Secondary School Enrollment Decisions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 695-716, November.
  15. Hongbin Cai & Yuyu Chen & Hanming Fang, 2009. "Observational Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 864-82, June.
  16. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-28, January.
  17. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Katherine L. Milkman, 2011. "The Effect of Providing Peer Information on Retirement Savings Decisions," NBER Working Papers 17345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  19. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
  20. Cai, Jing & de Janvry, Alain & Sadoulet, Elisabeth, 2013. "Social Networks and the Decision to Insure," MPRA Paper 46861, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  21. Sunil Sharma & Sushil Bikhchandani, 2000. "Herd Behavior in Financial Markets: A Review," IMF Working Papers 00/48, International Monetary Fund.
  22. Bandiera, Oriana & Barankay, Iwan & Rasul, Imran, 2009. "Social Incentives in the Workplace," IZA Discussion Papers 4190, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  23. Noam Yuchtman & Florian Ederer & Bruno Ferman & Leonardo Bursztyn, 2013. "Understanding Peer Effects in Financial Decisions: Evidence from a Field Experiment," 2013 Meeting Papers 222, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  24. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:i:4:p:929-945 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Ian Ayres & Sophie Raseman & Alice Shih, 2009. "Evidence from Two Large Field Experiments that Peer Comparison Feedback Can Reduce Residential Energy Usage," NBER Working Papers 15386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2013. "Energy Conservation “Nudges” And Environmentalist Ideology: Evidence From A Randomized Residential Electricity Field Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 680-702, 06.
  27. Jonathan Guryan & Kory Kroft & Matt Notowidigdo, 2007. "Peer Effects in the Workplace: Evidence from Random Groupings in Professional Golf Tournaments," NBER Working Papers 13422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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